Winter Survey - 2018 results!

Well, congratulations backyard birders! You made it through the winter – cold for some, balmy for others – and completed your 2018 Winter Surveys. For our second Birds in Backyards seasonal survey, 202 people surveyed 227 sites around the country and counted a total of 20,405 birds across 258 species. Not a bad effort, team!

Your top 10 birds counted nationally were…

  1. Australian Magpie
  2. Rainbow Lorikeet
  3. Noisy Miner
  4. Magpie-lark
  5. Red Wattlebird
  6. Galah
  7. Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
  8. Pied Currawong
  9. Willie Wagtail
  10. Crested Pigeon

The species surveyed nationally look very similar to your Autumn Survey, but with Australia’s second largest honeyeater the Red Wattlebird and the Willie Wagtail making a wiggly waggly appearance onto the list whilst the introduced House Sparrow and Common Blackbird were knocked off their perches (except for you South Australia and Tasmania)!

 

Parrots and pigeons and pests, oh my!

Flocking to the city

Parrots and pigeons are flocking birds that are often seen in large groups, so even where there are low numbers of surveys being done we can still see very high number of birds being counted.

The parrots we often find living near people are generalists – meaning they have a wide and flexible diet  – and are considered urban adapted. The most commonly counted species across the east coast in both the Birds in Backyards Seasonal Surveys and the annual Aussie Backyard Bird Count is the Rainbow Lorikeet, followed by Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Galahs. Rainbow Lorikeets are one of the most easily recognizable, colourful and noisy birds, often seen feeding on nectar, fruit, seeds, and insects in our parks, gardens and streets. At dusk they’ll form huge, noisy congregations in a few trees. Read more fun facts about Rainbow Lorikeets here.

While Galahs also form huge, noisy flocks they are more readily found feeding on seeds on the ground and have no problems doing so while dodging the local Saturday cricket game in the park. Galahs are widespread across the country, and their numbers have been steadily increasing over the years  - particularly in Perth – due to widespread clearing, increasing availability of food and water (they sure do like those seeds on the ground!), and even aviary escapes. But south-western WA is also home to three threatened black-cockatoo species. Interestingly, we’ve seen an increase in the number of Forest Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos in urban areas across the Swan Coastal Plain. These birds traditionally called the dense jarrah, karri and marri forests home but are now seen feeding (and even breeding!) in more open agricultural areas and the Perth metropolitan area. For more information, check out the Southwest Black-Cockatoo Recovery Community Facebook group or BirdLife Australia’s Recovery Program.

And let's not forget those pigeons! The Crested Pigeon is common and widespread across mainland Australia, having made the transition from common inland bird to common urban bird.

Interesting fact 1: they are usually found in the vicinity of water as they have to drink every day.  

Interesting fact 2: research has shown that the sound made by their beating wings may have evolved to communicate danger. Read more at The Conversation.

Introduced Rock Doves and Spotted Doves are also urban-adapted species that can eat a variety of foods and are flexible in nesting locations.

And what about those pesky pests?

Noisy Miners are bold and curious native honeyeaters that are well adapted to urban areas and not afraid to pick a fight. These birds live in large colonies that repeat common calls, breed cooperatively, feed in large groups and are known to mob in large groups as well because of their territoriality. Their generalist diet, consisting mainly of nectar, fruit and insects, means that they favour large open spaces and flowering trees where they can forage. Places like public parks or open lawns that are mainly grass and tall tress without any complexity or density provided by lower shrubbery. This shrubbery also provides a safe place for other small birds to rest, nest, and hide from the fearless and aggressive Noisy Miners. Read more about Noisy Miners and what you can do here.

While not considered a pest by some, the introduced House Sparrow is a human-commensal species (meaning they live with people) that was introduced into Australia in the late 1800s by acclimatisation societies and for pest control on farms. While they are experiencing a worrying decline in their native range (Northern Hemisphere), in Australia they appear to be flourishing in our southern states and across many of our regional towns where access to food is easily come by – think horse stables, chickens, grain, etc. Interestingly, recent research from Macquarie University shows that Australia’s House Sparrows are slowly shrinking in size under the hot Australian sun and can be seen as a model for how certain species would react to a changing climate. Read about other introduced birds here.

 

How are we tracking since the Autumn Survey?

The numbers are slowly creeping up, with more surveyors adding more species and counting more birds this winter. Let’s see if we can drive participation and survey numbers up this spring – why not invite a friend to join us or submit more than one survey?

 

Autumn 2018

Winter 2018

# of surveys submitted

446 (62% complete)

431 (62% complete)

# of people surveying

175

202

# of survey sites

210

227

# of species seen

222

258

TOTAL # of birds counted

16,698

20,405

 

Super surveyor stats

Our Queensland surveyors topped the submissions this winter with 36% of the total surveys, followed by our Victorian backyard birders, then NSW, WA, SA, and Tasmania. A big shout out and a high five to our lone surveyor in the NT (congrats on getting in 13 surveys!). And a big welcome to our new surveyors from the ACT!

 

The app is on the way!

Look out for a full version of the Birds in Backyards survey on the Birdata app in time for the Summer Surveys this December 2018-January 2019. It’s been a very busy year for the Birdata team and we’ve been hard at work improving the portal. In the meantime, please don’t forget to log into the online version and complete your surveys – because your seasonal survey is more than just counting birds! And the more detail you send us, the more interesting and complete the results become over time.

 

It’s great to have you with us and enjoy your Spring Survey this September & October. Read more here about the great prizes up for grabs. Happy birding!

 

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